There is a reason that sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. Or why parents of young babies constantly look like zombies. Sleep is crucial to our health, both mental and physical. Try to imagine, then, after using substances for however long, how important sleep is on our recovery. Although many of us find sleep as elusive as ever upon entering recovery, establishing a regular sleep pattern is one of the important tenets of a successful recovery.
Lack of Sleep is Part of the Problem
The most obvious link between substance abuse and sleep is when people turn to some kind of substance because they have not been able to get enough sleep. Drugs as “innocent” as caffeine or more extremely, anything from amphetamines to cocaine. It starts at a very young age, as one study found that up to 75 percent of young students are not getting a good night’s sleep. The deprivation increases with age, with college students often pulling “all-nighters,” and continues into adulthood with the responsibilities of jobs and parenthood.
However, it is not merely the natural consequences of missing sleep and turning to substances to stay awake. There is also a correlation to missed sleep leading to future use of all types of substances. The report above also looked at how adults missing sleep impacted specific dopamine receptors, leaving them at risk for future substance use in an effort to compensate for the lowered dopamine levels. The bottom line is that one way or the other, missing sleep itself can increase our risk of substance use.
Substances Interrupt Healthy Sleep Patterns
Everyone has what is known as a circadian rhythm. This is a 24-hour sleep-wake cycle that regulates not only how much sleep we need, but when we need it. Substance abuse has been shown to interrupt that cycle. Certain substances, such as those listed above, intentionally keep us awake. Others simply interfere with sleep as a side effect.
There is also data to suggest, as a 2012 study noted, that when the circadian rhythm is interrupted by substance use, the circadian rhythm, in turn, increases the need in the brain for more substance, creating a vicious cycle. The more obvious cycle is like the one above, where something like an amphetamine is used to stay awake, but then the drug interferes with sleep when we want to sleep, leading to sometimes another substance being introduced to induce sleep, which creates a vicious cycle of substances controlling our sleep pattern instead of our own body’s natural cycle.
Substance-Induced Sleep Disorder
Many substances create sleep disorders. Sleep is interrupted by insomnia, or not being able to get to sleep, as well as difficulties staying asleep, and interference with the sleep cycles such as non-REM sleep and REM sleep. In this situation, the substance itself is interfering with our sleep process, which then makes us excessively sleepy and puts us at higher risk for accidents and other consequences of sleepiness.
When our sleep is consistently impaired, such as with insomnia, it becomes an actual sleep disorder. The natural instinct is to self-medicate a sleep disorder with alcohol or another substance that can cause sleepiness. Unfortunately, this only helps short-term, because the substance is needed in increasing quantities in order to be effective, at which point the other consequences of substance use come into play. Sleep disorders are very real and require appropriate medical intervention to be able to overcome them.
Sleep and Withdrawal
One side effect of detoxification is sleep disturbances during the withdrawal process. In fact, many of us struggle with sleep disturbances further into recovery. Because our brains have often been re-wired during substance use, it can take some time for the natural circadian rhythm to return. It does get better, though. As we do all of the things to restore our mental, physical, and emotional health, natural sleep patterns can return.
Sleep as Self-Care
One of the basic principles of recovery is self-care, or daily routines to take care of our mental, physical, and emotional health. Sleep is one of the very important ones, and we need to be vigilant in protecting our sleep. Some people advocate the use of sleep-inducing medications, with sleep being a quality of life issue. However, this is something we can discuss with a trusted doctor, as such medications can also be addictive and can impact our recovery negatively. There are many other non-addictive things we can do which will help restore a normal sleep cycle, such as meditation, yoga, and exercise. These activities have the side-effect of improving our mental and physical health while helping our bodies to sleep better and sleep on schedule.
Many of us don’t even realize that our sleep is being impacted because substances do so much to interfere with our whole lives. Perhaps you weren’t aware of the love-hate relationship that substance use and sleep have. But you can restore your body’s natural sleep patterns. When you enter recovery, you seek health. Proper sleep is incredibly important to your overall health, both body and mind. So it is important to find a facility that understands holistic health, such as AToN Center. Together, you can start your healing process, and in that process, restore your natural sleep patterns. Never underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep.
Restore your help and your sleep cycle at AToN Center. Call (888) 535-1516 today and recover your mental and physical health and also your sleep.